Many years ago, in 1989 or 1990, a computer game named SimCity was released for IBM PC computers which at the time still ran on DOS – no Windows yet. By today’s computer graphics standards, SimCity was primitive then, almost pre-historic, but no one knew yet what was to come and I was thrilled. It was magical.
I have no memory of how I discovered SimCity. I had no interest in computer games in general and it seems odd now that I would have noticed it but somehow it came into my field of vision, I bought it and was hooked.
For the uninitiated, SimCity was (and still is) an urban planning game that allows a player – as mayor – to build cities with industrial, commercial and residential zones, hook them up to utilities, supply other urban necessities, handle the budget and watch the cities grow – unless you screw up and the city becomes blighted.
(Much later, the company released a Sims life simulation game sequel based around activities and relationships rather than urban planning. That one held no charms for me.)
When Windows came along, I upgraded SimCity and in subsequent versions, the cities became animated. When you built roads, cars ran on them; when you bulldozed a lot to make room for new buildings, puffs of debris floated up. There were sound effects now. It was delightful.
Although I never got bored with SimCity, my life got busier and there was little time for games. After a long absence from it, about 12 or 15 years ago I opened SimCity one work evening thinking I’d fool around for an hour or so before going to bed.
Suddenly, a contact lens fell out of one eye onto the keyboard and with a glance at the clock I could see that I’d been playing for four hours. If you had asked me how long I’d been at it, I would have guessed about an hour.
On only four hours of sleep, I was miserable at work the next day. I now understood why parents could not pry their children from Tomb Raider, Super Mario Brothers or any of the others. With modern-day graphics, the immersion is total.
It was scary that so much time could go by without my noticing. Nevertheless, as tired as I was at work, I was eager to get home to the game and that was even scarier.
Thinking it over on the subway, I had no difficulty imagining myself clicking away at my cities night after night, obsessing about them at work, rushing home to stuff myself with deli takeout while living inside SimCity instead of New York as my body gradually came to resemble that of Jabba the Hut.
Other people have crystal meth, heroin, oxycodone and various club drugs. I had SimCity.
So I banned the game from my life. I erased it from my hard drive. I forgot about it. Oh, now and again over the years, I checked out the graphic advances in the game. It was getting better and better. But I fended off temptation.
Until Saturday when somewhere online I ran across a reference to the game.
It had to my evil twin because it was not me who downloaded the latest SimCity that evening (now only $10). Of course, it is so changed and improved since I last played (it’s gorgeous, fabulous, fantastic) that I had to work through some tutorials to get the hang of the controls. I did that and went to bed.
All the above is by way of telling you that I spent most of Sunday afternoon deep inside SimCity and literally forgot that I had not written a Monday blog post until just now.
Someday, when it is recalled that there once was an elderblog called Time Goes By and someone asks whatever happened to Ronni Bennett…
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Madonna Dries Christensen: It’s Been a Long, Long Time